South Africa: Strikers Kill Police During Confrontation

Pretoria — Two policemen were killed and one was injured during a confrontation with strikers in Marikana in the North West during a platinum miners' strike, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Tuesday.

Police fired rubber bullets after the strikers refused to leave their weapons, a witness identified as "Mr X" said.

One of the police officers was hit with a gun on his forehead and the other was chopped on the back of his head with a panga.

Mr X may not be identified to protect his identity, and is testifying via video link from an undisclosed location.

One of the police officers was still alive when the strikers left him.

Mr X said he chased a third police officer who ran towards a car and hit him on his left leg.

He was testifying about a confrontation the strikers had with the police on August 13, 2012.

The strikers were asked by police to leave their weapons but they refused. The strikers were armed with spears, firearms and pangas.

Police fired rubber bullets and used teargas on the strikers.

Mr X said the police's firearms, cellphones and a radio were taken by the strikers after they were attacked. He said when the strikers met the police they were going to an informal settlement to kill people.

When the strikers were walking towards the informal settlement they were singing, ululating, hitting their weapons and were in a crouching position to make the muti work faster.

Mr X said they were singing, "tighten your balls young man, otherwise you won't come right".

He said the strikers knew that police could not harm them.

After the police were attacked, the strikers went back to the mountain where they were told to join the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

They were told to destroy red T-shirts because they didn't want to be associated with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

"I was forced to join Amcu, otherwise I was going to be injured," he said.

Mr X said the strikers were told to fill in a form to join Amcu.

When Mr X was testifying a video of the strikers' encounter with the police was shown.

Earlier, the inquiry heard that Julius Langa was killed because he was going to work.

"We stabbed the man. I also took part in it. I used my panga to strike him," Mr X said.

Langa was killed around 4am on August 13, 2012 near a railway line in Marikana, near Rustenburg in the North West. He was stabbed 18 times, his post-mortem showed.

The inquiry is investigating the deaths of 44 people during strike-related violence at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana.

Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police, over 70 were wounded, and another 250 arrested on August 16, 2012.

Police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed.

The commission was postponed early on Tuesday because Mr X was feeling tired.

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